Now that my undefeated file of choosing No. 13 seeds or decrease within the NCAA Match publicly remains to be intact after Furman’s victory over Virginia on Thursday, I’m deciding to not relaxation on my laurels and inform you all about one other prediction I made earlier this week. For followers of Deadspin’s Conform to Disagree video collection, it is a choice I’ve already proclaimed on digicam. Auburn will upset the Midwest area’s No. 1 seed in Houston on Saturday. It’s not fairly the lopsided upset as choosing the Paladins or Saint Peter’s over Kentucky final 12 months, but it surely’s little question not what’ll be favored.
The Cougars appeared horrible in opposition to one of many worst groups within the NCAA Match. Northern Kentucky received out of a weak low-major within the Horizon League. The Norse genuinely impressed me final evening and held powerful with one of many supposed greatest groups within the nation. Kelvin Sampson’s squad earned that No. 1 seed and was arguably probably the most constant workforce within the nation in the course of the common season. And Houston both was trying previous a workforce it knew it may simply defeat, or the upstart Norse really uncovered what a Marcus Sasser-less workforce seems like.
In case you take the most effective participant away from any nice workforce, it gained’t be as mighty anymore. Purdue with out Zach Edey is a bubble workforce and may be taking part in within the NIT proper now. Alabama with out Brandon Miller, which needs to be a actuality proper now with the off-court drama surrounding the Crimson Tide, would’ve gotten a powerful seed in The Large Dance, however seemingly extra towards the 4-5 line. Sasser is that needle-mover for the Cougars. The drop-off with out the 6-foot-2 senior guard and seemingly NBA lottery choose due to a groin damage suffered within the American Athletic Convention Match final week, is clear. He was pulled at halftime by Sampson and Houston was inconsistent with out him.
Auburn had a real toss-up matchup with Iowa on paper. The Tigers had been at all times higher than their seeding, whereas Iowa wasn’t. The Hawkeyes have by no means had a future within the match beneath Fran McCaffery and this 12 months’s Kris Murray-led squad was no totally different. The SEC outmuscled the Large Ten. There’s no manner round that. And Auburn may have thrown a couple of extra punches on the finish of the sport if wanted. Within the nightcap, it was apparent by the tip of the sport how drained Northern Kentucky was. A workforce higher conditioned to play with Houston, which will probably be each workforce the Cougars see the remainder of the season, will be capable of take higher benefit of a inclined, unmotivated squad. And if the dearth of drive isn’t actuality for UH, it didn’t present it in opposition to the Norse. It additionally has an excellent probability for redemption in opposition to Auburn. However nothing’s assured. And Bruce Pearl-coached groups normally don’t miss when provided that kind of alternative.
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It’s not clear if Sasser will play at 7:10 p.m. on TBS with a visit to the Candy 16 on the road. It’s clear that if he performs, he gained’t be at full well being, which is already a downgrade from what we’ve anticipated from the Cougars for many of this season. Auburn is a workforce that’s gone by a bunch of adversity this season and nonetheless discovered its manner safely into March Insanity. It’s a unique form of entice to outline the adversity for Houston. Saying the Cougars have been by none can be silly. Their paths of resistance have been examined in video games, with extra tangible rewards, like 11 extra wins than the Tigers this season, alongside the way in which. That’ll imply little come Saturday evening in Birmingham, a brief 110-mile journey from Auburn. And it won’t be a house recreation for the AU, but it surely ought to really feel prefer it from the group. Houston’s strolling into enemy territory and I don’t assume it’ll be robust sufficient to stroll out of the primetime matchup nonetheless with a season to play for.